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The Board Certified Pharmacist: What Role They Play in Pharmacy

Published on: May 4, 2023
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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A board-certified pharmacist is a professional who has achieved advanced certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) in a specific area of pharmacy practice. This certification demonstrates that the pharmacist has acquired specialized knowledge and skills in a particular area of pharmacy practice and has met rigorous standards of competency in that area. These pharmacists are the content experts in pharmacotherapy in these specialized areas of pharmacy practice.

To become a board-certified pharmacist, a candidate must first earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from an accredited college or university. After graduation, the pharmacist must pass the national licensure exam (NAPLEX) and the state-specific licensure requirements, which include a state pharmacy law exam and occasionally a compounding exam.  Upon licensure, pharmacists must first complete a certain amount of clinical work experience in their chosen area of specialization, either through clinical practice, pharmacy residency experience, or a combination of the two.

A pharmacist may sit for the board exam with 4 years of pharmacy practice in the specialized practice area, 2 years of experience with a general 1 year residency, or a general 1 year residency with a second year of residency in the specialized practice area. Once the pharmacist has met these requirements, they are eligible to take the certification examination administered by the BPS.

There are currently 14 recognized specialty areas in which a pharmacist can become board-certified. These include:

Each of these areas requires a different level of expertise and knowledge, and the certification process is tailored to each specific area. The certification examination includes both multiple-choice and case-based questions, and it tests the pharmacist's knowledge of pharmacology, therapeutics, patient care, and other relevant topics.

Achieving board certification in a specialty area demonstrates a pharmacist's commitment to their profession and their dedication to providing the highest level of care to their patients. It also helps to differentiate them from other pharmacists who do not hold the same level of expertise and training.

According to the BPS, there are currently over 50,000 board-certified pharmacists worldwide, and in the United States, less than 15% of all licensed pharmacists are board certified. As the field of pharmacy continues to evolve and become more specialized, the demand for board-certified pharmacists is likely to increase. The number of board certified pharmacists has increased exponentially over the last 10 years and the number of available pharmacy specializations has increased as well. Many experienced pharmacy positions now require board certification, especially in hospital and specialized ambulatory care settings.

The responsibilities of board certified pharmacists vary depending on their practice setting, but they all share a commitment to ensuring safe and effective medication use. In hospital settings, board certified pharmacists are often part of interdisciplinary teams that work to develop and implement treatment plans for patients. They collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to ensure that medications are prescribed appropriately, dosed correctly, and monitored for potential adverse effects. These pharmacists also provide seamless transition of care upon discharge as patients return to their home or long-term care facility.

In community pharmacy settings, board certified pharmacists often work in collaborative practice settings with a multidisciplinary team to manage chronic diseases and counsel patients on proper medication administration and use. They may also provide medication therapy management services, which involve reviewing patients' medications to identify potential drug interactions, adverse effects, and other issues that could impact their health. Board certified pharmacists may also work in specialty pharmacy settings, such as oncology or infectious disease, where they focus on managing complex medication regimens and ensuring patients receive the best possible care.

Board certified pharmacists also play an important role in education and research. They often teach and mentor pharmacy students and residents, sharing their knowledge and experience to help the next generation of pharmacists develop their skills. They may also conduct research to advance the field of pharmacy and improve patient care.

To maintain their certification, board certified pharmacists must participate in ongoing education and professional development. They must also adhere to a code of ethics and demonstrate a commitment to patient safety and the highest standards of practice.

In conclusion, board certified pharmacists are highly trained professionals who play a critical role in ensuring safe and effective medication use. It is a significant achievement for a pharmacist, demonstrates advanced knowledge and skills in a specific area of pharmacy practice and indicates a commitment to providing the highest level of care to patients.

They work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to community pharmacies to specialty clinics, and collaborate with other healthcare providers to improve patient outcomes. By maintaining their certification and staying up to date with the latest research and developments in their field, board certified pharmacists demonstrate a commitment to excellence and a dedication to improving patient care. As such, board-certified pharmacists are highly valued by other healthcare professionals and patients alike.


portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia